7.5 cm KwK 42
The 7.5 cm KwK 42 is a high-velocity cannon firing 75x640 mmR rounds. At L/70 length, it was a very long cannon and was the primary tank armament of the Panther tanks. The tank cannon gave the user a very high penetrative power against the enemies due to the barrel length and powerful cartridges, and is able to penetrate any Allied medium tank at its introduction from a distance of 1,500 meters away. The KwK 42 was also known as the 7.5 cm Pak 42 when mounted on tank destroyers, and the 7.5 cm KwK 44/1 on the experimental Panther Ausf. F.
Unlike its rank-brother, the 8.8 cm KwK 36 on the Tigers, the 7.5 cm KwK 42 has a greater emphasis on penetration. As a smaller caliber, it does not contain as much explosive filler as on the 8.8 cm, but can defeat some of the tougher armor encountered in Rank IV.
Guns of comparable performance
- Panzergranate 39/42 (Pzgr.39/42) - Standard Armor-Piercing Capped Ballistic-Capped (APCBC) round with high-explosive filling.
- Panzergranate 40/42 (Pzgr.40/42) - APCR round
- Sprenggranate 42 (Sprgr.42) - High-explosive round
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The German experience on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union showed that they were severely lacking in anti-tank equipment to fight the Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks. In response to this problem, German development on better anti-tank weaponry and tank designs took priority in order to combat these tanks. Anti-tank weaponry developed into the 7.5 cm Pak 40, which became the main armament of the standard Panzer IV tanks in the German armored forces. The tank development eventually became the Tiger I and the Panther tanks, each with superior armor and weaponry compared to what the Soviet Union had. The Tiger had the powerful 88 mm cannon it became famous for, while the Panther was armed with the a lengthened 7.5 cm cannon that became known as the 7.5 cm KwK 42.
The lengthening of the tank barrel improved the 7.5 cm caliber characteristics due to improved ballistics. The longer tank barrel allows for the cartridge loaded in to use its maximum power the propellant can provide to propel the round at maximum velocity to the target. The gun operated on a electric primer like the 88 mm cannon of the Tiger, and used a semi-automatic falling-wedge breech that allows for faster firing by speeding up the loading and case extraction cycle. The change in barrel design did cause the standard 7.5 cm cartridges in use to not be compatible due to pressure differences, so a new cartridge had to be designed and manufactured for use in the KwK 42.
The KwK 42 saw most of its usage on the Panther tanks, first seeing service in the Battle of Kursk in the Summer 1943. The KwK 42 could penetrate every Allied tank fielded at its introduction from a range of 1,500 meters away. Thus, the KwK 42 had an extreme range advantage over the Allied guns on the Sherman and T-34. It was only the introduction of the IS-2 heavy tank that the KwK 42 finally met a tank that could withstand the rounds it fire.
As many guns were developed, some KwK 42 saw usage on the tank destroyers Panzer IV/70(V) and (A). These tank guns mounted on the tank destroyers were called 7.5 cm Pak 42 for an indication as an anti-tank gun. Sometime in 1943 or 1944, the KwK 42 also saw use in the developmental Panther Ausf. F that used a modified turret from the Panther II. The modified turret required a modified gun, and the KwK 42 used for the Panther Ausf. F was redesignated the 7.5 cm KwK 44/1.